Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Design Standard – Assessment Update – July 2020

The SDA Design Standard has now been in use for more than 8 months and there are currently more than 40 Accredited SDA Design Standard Assessors registered with Livable Housing Australia. Details can be found at https://sdaassessors.org.au/

As could be expected with any new program or process, questions arise that may require clarification and/or further information to assist with implementation.

Access Institute  Director, (Ms) Joe Manton, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) personnel from the SDA Housing Team,  Livable Housing Australia (LHA) and the Lead Technical Writer of the SDA Design Standard, Farah Madon, work collaboratively on an ongoing basis, to try and answer questions and clarify issues that have arisen in relation to the SDA Design Standard.

To assist in providing information to the marketplace, Access Institute is publishing this first E News – SDA Design Standard – Assessment Update. We have collated a range of information to assist with implementing the SDA Design Standard to make it easier for Accredited SDA Assessors, SDA Providers and developers to better understand requirements.

We will aim to do this on a periodic basis to support the use and implementation of the SDA Design Standard.

1. Role of the Accredited SDA Assessor (The Assessor)

The role of an Accredited SDA Design Standard Assessor is to conduct assessments of Design (Provisional) and/or Final-as-built dwellings against the SDA Design Standard to confirm compliance with the Standard. Assessors have been trained to do this via an NDIS approved training program.  Whilst anyone can undertake the training course, only Specified Professionals who meet certain prerequisites can become Accredited SDA Assessors. Further details can be found at www.accessinstitute.com.au

If The Assessor determines that a Design (Provisional) or Final-as-built dwelling meets the compliance requirements of the SDA Design Standard, they can issue a Certificate of Category Compliance to the client along with the SDA Assessment Summary Form. The Assessor will also register the assessment with NDIS. (See below)

It is not the role of The Assessor to provide advice regarding density requirements, eligibility for, or funding of SDA. Any queries related to these issues should be directed to NDIS.

2. Changes to the Registration of Assessment

NDIS has advised the following change to registration of completed Assessments undertaken by Accredited SDA Assessors as follows:

Once an Assessment for either Design (Provisional) or Final-as-built dwelling is competed against the SDA Design Standard, The Assessor must provide the applicant with 2 documents:

  • Certificate of Category Compliance
  • Assessment Summary Form.

In addition, the Assessor must register the Assessment by forwarding the following 3 documents to NDIS via email:

  • Certificate of Category Compliance
  • Assessment Summary Form
  • Assessment Form

The email address for Registration of the Assessment is SDAENROLMENT@ndis.gov.au 

Lodgement of these documents with NDIS does not constitute enrolment of a dwelling. Enrolment of a Final-as built dwelling is the responsibility of the SDA Provider. It is not the role of the Assessor to enrol the dwelling. (see below)

There is now no requirement to send these documents to Livable Housing Australia.

3. Conflict of Interest – Assessors

At both Design (Provisional) and Final-as-built stage, the Accredited SDA Assessor cannot have a connection to the applicant, for example by way of employment or some other contractual relationship.

An Accredited SDA Assessor cannot certify, at both Design and Final- as-built-stage, any project that has been designed (in their capacity of an Architect or Building Designer) or constructed by themselves (in their capacity, as the Builder) or where they have provided other review services (in their capacity as the BCA Consultant or Building Certifier).

This also extends to another employee or contractor in the company associated with the project. For example, a firm with multiple architects cannot have one architect design and another architect within the same firm certify the project. This is essential to maintain independence and integrity of assessment.

Accredited SDA Assessors certifying dwellings at either Design (Provisional) stage or Final as Built stage must be a third party to the builder, developer and SDA Registered Provider.

There is no conflict of interest where an Access Consultant is engaged to provide advice regarding the SDA requirements of a Design or a Final-as-built dwelling, and is also undertaking the role of the Accredited SDA Assessor, as the advisory role is part of the initial SDA Assessment process. Access Consultants are not engaged as a designer of the SDA nor have any statutory capacity e.g. such as a Building Certifier, in relation to NCC certification of the design or construction.

There is no conflict of interest where an Occupational Therapist (who is also an Accredited SDA Assessor) is engaged to provide advice to an NDIS participant regarding their specific housing requirements. The NDIS participant is not the applicant for the purposes of the SDA Design Standard Assessment.

Note: Working under multiple ABN numbers does not remove the conflict of interest as the Accredited SDA Assessor is the individual person and not an entity or organisation or business. If the Accredited SDA Assessor has received a fee from an organisation in their capacity as an Architect or Builder or BCA Assessor or Principal Certifying Authority, then a contractual relationship has been established creating a conflict of interest.

If any Assessor believes they may have a conflict of interest, they should seek independent legal advice regarding this.

4. Certification under Multiple Design Categories

A dwelling can be certified under multiple Design categories, however separate assessment summary forms and Certificates of Category Compliance are required for each of the design categories to be certified.

5. Can Design Requirements be varied?

Minimum design requirements cannot be varied; however, if additional elements are included over and above the minimum design requirements to enhance accessibility, this can occur as long as this does not impact on the minimum design requirements as detailed in the SDA Design Standard.

Changes to, or reduction or deletion of any minimum specified design requirements will result in non-compliance with the SDA Design Standard.

The Accredited SDA Assessor has no authority or flexibility in relation to granting exemptions or variations to the minimum specified design requirements of the SDA Design Standard.

Careful attention should occur at the design stage to ensure that the Final-as- built dwelling will meet the minimum specified design requirements of the SDA Design Standard.

6. Changes to designs after assessment

If an applicant changes a design after an assessment is completed and a Certificate of Category Compliance has already been issued by the Assessor, and the Assessor becomes aware of this,  they should inform the applicant that another assessment will be required to confirm compliance.

Once the Assessor has undertaken the review of any amendments, if deemed complaint,  the Assessor could issue a new Certificate of Category Compliance superseding the original or provide an written amendment to the original Certificate of Category compliance (can be via a letter on the SDA Assessors letterhead) noting that the amendment does not alter the original Certificate of Category Compliance.

It is up the Assessor to ensure that the Certificate of Category Compliance for the design, aligns with the plans provided by the applicant. The Assessor is not responsible for any applicant or SDA provider that uses Certificates of Category Compliance in an inappropriate manner.

7. Enrolment of SDA with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA)

Only Final-as-built dwellings can be enrolled with NDIA and the Certificate of Category Compliance and the Assessment Summary Form (used by the Assessor) must be submitted with the enrolment.

Only the SDA Provider can enrol the SDA. The Assessor cannot enrol the SDA.

Further details are provided at https://www.ndis.gov.au/about-us/operational-guidelines/specialist-disability-accommodation-operational-guideline/providers-how-can-you-enrol-dwellings-sda

8. Design Requirement Interpretations and Clarifications

The following SDA Design Standard Design Requirement interpretations are provided for clarity and confirmation:

Clause 3 Car parking

  1. For Fully Accessible (FA) and High Physical Support (HPS) design categories, the car parking space (where provided for use by the participant) can also be provided as per AS2890.6.

Clause 4 Entrance, doorways and door hardware

  • The term ‘areas normally used by the participant’ mean all areas in the participant’s home. It is reasonable in FA and HPS design categories to have an onsite overnight assistance room without the specified door circulation spaces, however the clear door opening requirements still apply, so that access is not restricted to an area of a participants own home.

Clause 6 Windows

  • Clause 6.3 deals with power and control cabling to windows of bedrooms and living areas. In relation to bedrooms, it is reasonable to apply these requirements to just the participant bedroom/s.

Clause 7 Sanitary facilities

  • Under Clause 7.2 Wall reinforcements to sanitary compartments, wall reinforcements are required to a minimum height of 2100mm from FFL. It is reasonable to have window openings in the walls of sanitary facility; however, the Accredited SDA Assessor should exert some judgement on location of windows so that they will not encroach on the installation of grabrails in the future in line with AS1428.1. In addition to this, Clause 7.2.2 already notes that 600mm minimum length of wall reinforcement forward of the WC pan is required to be provided without openings, and therefore this area is also to be kept clear of any window openings/ window frames.
  • Figure 10 notes for FA and HPS design category that use of shower screen is not permitted. Clarification is provided that the use of shower screen is not permitted if it encroaches on any required WC pan, basin, and shower circulation spaces.

Clause 8 Kitchen

  • For FA and HPS design categories, the accessible benchtop surface of minimum 600mm depth shall be provided right next to the cooktop and wall oven on the latch side of the oven door. This means abutting the cooktop.
  • Powerpoints behind fixed appliances (such as behind fridge, behind a dishwasher, behind a microwave, behind a wall mounted TV) where physical access is limited and where the switch is not required to be switched on/ off for regular day to day use, can be excluded from provision of large / 35mm switches.

Clause 10 Bedroom

  • A built-in robe (not movable robe) is required to all participant’s bedrooms.
  • For FA and HPS, where there is an ensuite access from within the bedroom, the door circulation spaces of the ensuite door are required to be clear of the bed space.

Clause 12 Switches and powerpoints

  1. Light switches shall be positioned in a consistent location between 900mm and 1100mm above FFL (Typo in SDA Design Standard currently states 900mm – 1000mm)

Clause 15 Use of lifts

  1. Stairway Platform lifts are not permitted. These types of lifts travel on the stairway itself and the platform is folded up against the wall when not in use.

Clause 16 Common use external areas, private open space and landscaping.

  1. Clause 16.2 requires that an individual letter box (where provided) needs to be on a hard-standing area of 1540mmx2070mm. This means that the letterbox needs to adjoin a clear floor space of 1540mmx2070mm for access. A person using a mobility aid must be able to access their mail.

Clause 17 Storage

  1. A dwelling must be provided with a storage cupboard with a minimum 600mm width and adjustable shelf heights. This storage cupboard is to be located in a common area within the dwelling. e.g. not in a bedroom.

Clause 23 Assistive technology

  1. If there is a requirement to initially activate assistive technology using switches, then these switches must be in accessible locations.

9. Participants are Paramount

All Accredited SDA Assessors have been appointed based on their skills, experience and qualifications. Therefore, it is expected that Assessors will understand that the needs of the participants of NDIS, who will be the residents of SDA are paramount in any SDA design. This should be at the forefront of any discussion and decisions involving assessors, developers and SDA providers regarding suitability of SDA and compliance with the SDA Design Standards.

10. The new SDA Rules released

Of interest is that New SDA Rules were released in June 2020.The SDA Rules have changed to allow more options for participants who are eligible for SDA to choose who they would like to live with. 

In line with the SDA Rules changes, the SDA Operational Guideline has also been updated to:

  • provide more transparency about how decisions are made and included in a participant’s plan
  • implement changes to the SDA Rules to remove barriers to participant choice in SDA living arrangements
  • improve content in a more accessible and easier to find format.

Further details can be found at:


Further Information

We will aim to provide these updates on a periodic basis however if you require any further information please contact SDAhousing@NDIS.gov.au


This SDA Design Standard Assessment Update has been developed in collaboration between Access Institute, NDIS, LHA and the Lead Technical Writer of the SDA Design Standard. No individual party or writer of the Update takes responsibility for any errors, omissions or subsequent changes to requirements relating to Specialist Disability Accommodation.

‘I found the workshop to be extremely useful, thoroughly enjoyed an informative two days, in particular I liked the practical and effective ways of conducting an access audit.’ — Naomi Thompson, City of Canterbury Bankstown